Leyland steps down after eight years with Tigers

DETROIT — Jim Leyland stepped down as manager of the Tigers on Monday, revealing his decision at a Comerica Park news conference.

Leyland, 68, said he told the Tigers players of his plans after Saturday’s loss to the Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, and that he informed club president and general manager Dave Dombrowski of his decision on Sept. 7 in Kansas City. Leyland said that he has accepted a different position, to be determined, with the club.

“It’s not goodbye, because I will be in the organization doing something,” an emotional Leyland said.

“We want to thank Jim for everything he has done over the past eight years to steer the ship and lead our ballclub to some exciting times in this town,” Tigers owner Mike Ilitch said. “Jim has been instrumental in the franchise’s most recent success on and off the field, and we are forever grateful. We wish the best to Jim and his family in the future.”

Leyland’s decision ends an eight-year tenure leading the team he grew up with, first as a Minor League catcher and then as a manager in its farm system. This season was his 50th in professional baseball, 22 of them managing at the big league level, the last eight in Detroit.

He built the Pittsburgh Pirates into a perennial contender on a small-market budget in the early 1990s, winning three consecutive National League East titles from 1990-92, then won a long-awaited World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, only to watch both teams enter rebuilding projects. After a disappointing 1999 season managing in Colorado, he stepped down and seemed ready for retirement.

For years, however, he dreamed about a chance to manage Detroit. He took the job after the 2005 season and led a Tigers team that hadn’t had a winning record since 1993 to heights it hadn’t seen since its World Series-winning season of 1984.

The 2006 Tigers, Leyland’s first team, won the AL Wild Card and went to the World Series, falling to the Cardinals in five games. It was a Cinderella story for a franchise that had seemed mired in mediocrity, but it was the start of a team that contended just about every year.

Six of Leyland’s eight Tigers squads finished with a winning record. Four of them went to the playoffs. The last three won the AL Central title and advanced to at least the ALCS. Though they were swept by the Giants, the Tigers reached the World Series last year. Leyland joined Hughie Jennings from a century ago as the only managers to lead the Tigers to three consecutive postseason berths.

“The thing I’m proudest of is … I came here to make talent a team. I think we did that,” Leyland said.

“Jim’s tenure will be looked back on as one of the great eras in Tigers history, an era that included two World Series appearances, four ALCS appearances in eight seasons, three division titles and two American League pennants,” Dombrowski said. “It has truly been an honor to work with one of the great managers in the history of the game.”

In each of the three seasons, Leyland worked without a contract for the following year. He had decided to go year-to-year with his deal, he said, following the example of his good friend, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, to avoid a long-term commitment if he didn’t want to manage anymore or if the Tigers wanted to go in a different direction. La Russa was among the few people Leyland consulted while coming to his decision to retire as a manager.

There had been no outward signs that Leyland was ready to call it quits. As recently as this summer, he talked about wanting to manage beyond next year, and he said that his energy level was good — though he revealed on Monday that road trips were taking a toll on him and that “the fuel was starting to get low.” Dombrowski told MLB.com during the AL Division Series that Leyland was welcome as long as he wanted to manage, and he told Leyland the same in their Sept. 7 meeting, before Leyland said this would be his last season.

Leyland’s 700 regular-season managerial wins are the third-most in Tigers history, trailing only Sparky Anderson (1,331) and Jennings (1,131). His .540 winning percentage as Tigers manager ranks only behind Steve O’Neill (.551 from 1943-48) among managers with at least 500 wins.

Leyland’s 1,769 wins overall rank 15th all-time among Major League managers. His eight playoff appearances tie him for seventh on the all-time list, a group that includes La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Hall of Famers Casey Stengel, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy and Connie Mack.

As read on: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/jim-leyland-steps-down-as-detroit-tigers-manager?cid=as_mlb_20131021_13395284&content_id=63201648&vkey=news_mlb&ymd=20131021

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